The role of medications in the past few decades have transformed from the role of providing normalization and absence of disease to becoming a customizable commodity that can provide enhancements to even healthy individuals. In the documentary “Pill Poppers”, there is a discussion on the use of Ritalin for attention deficit disorder. However, a research by a neuroscience professor demonstrated healthy students who had no symptoms of attention deficit also benefited from Ritalin. Whilst Ritalin helped the child in the documentary calm down, it also helped with focus and concentration, something that the students found aided their studies.

One major concern I have and something that was expressed by several students who were interviewed is how this somehow provides an unfair advantage to certain students and may compel others to follow suit in order to remain competitive. Another concern I have is the long term consequence of taking enhancement performing medications such as Ritalin. This must be considered a form of social control and one commentator rightly expressed concern that instead of using performance enhancing medications to live a more quality life, it will transform us into a 24 hour society.

I chose an ad for the medication Zoloft, which is used to treat social anxiety disorder. This ad was made in 2004 and shows animation as its medium, using circles as characters. It shows a party going on with party music in the background and lots of white balls dancing with party hats. In comes a sole pink colored ball looking sad. A voice starts off with normal variation listing of symptoms “suddenly being nervous?” “Feeling of being criticized?” or “imagine that others are judging you?” The narrator then lists a person’s response when they go through these feelings. “Embarrassed” “heart thumps and you don’t know why”. While the narrator lists generic medical diagnosis a subtle message displays “Symptoms get in the way of life” as a conclusive reminder that you have something that is hindering you. Then the narrator comforts you by telling you that you could be one of 16 million Americans who suffer from social anxiety disorder. The cultural value of making the patient appear normal for having such feelings and even more so to want to attempt to redress social issues is promoted as an ideology to follow.

The ad then provides access to privileged information by illustrating how chemical imbalances can be controlled by Zoloft. Despite the fact that the whole ad is a cartoon and therefore a dramatization, just this illustration has a sign below saying “Dramatization”, as if everything else is real! The narrator then reassures the potential patient that their social life will improve but states “Only your doctor can diagnose social anxiety disorder”. Again, just as the narrator encourages you to seek medical care, another message is displayed “social anxiety disorder is a serious medical condition”. This cements the psychological need to go to the doctor as an informed patient and share the symptoms that the ad has so ‘kindly’ described for you. As the narrator shares some of the side effects, your eyes focus more on the once pink but now white ball happily giggling with the other balls and bouncing with joy. It wraps up with a reminder to ask your doctor for more information about Zoloft and that Zoloft is the number one prescribed medication and then ends with the perfect tag line “When you know more about what’s wrong, you can make it right”. (ZOLOFT ADVERT LINK)

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